At 8:30 p.m. on the dot, it’s lights out at George Stephanopoulos’s house. Not just for the Good Morning America anchor’s two young daughters. Everybody. That would be George, his wife, comedian and writer Ali Wentworth, two rescue dogs and even the family’s pet guinea pigs. And if someone dares call 10 minutes later? “We’ll be incensed!” jokes Wentworth. “Who calls somebody at 8:40 at night?”
No one who knows the überdisciplined morning host. “He’s a man of routines,” explains his coanchor Robin Roberts. Part of his routine – since joining GMA three and a half years ago – is setting his alarm clock for 2:30 a.m. “I love to prepare,” says Stephanopoulos, 52, who is often the first one to work, whether he’s interviewing President Obama, Jason Collins (the first openly gay NBA player) or Reese Witherspoon after her husband’s DUI earlier this year. In the last year, while Roberts was on medical leave, “George was not only compassionate and caring, he stepped up big-time,” she says, helping GMA maintain a ratings lead over Today.
Stephanopoulos may be type A, but the former politico hasn’t sacrificed family to career. He’s happiest at home in their sprawling apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side with Wentworth, 48, Elliott, 10, and Harper, 8. When Wentworth walks into the family room, casually dressed in leggings and a sweatshirt, Stephanopoulos lights up and is all smiles when she plops down thisclose to him on the couch. “One of the blessings of meeting Ali, getting married and having a family is it’s opened me up,” he says.
When he was first tapped to take over on GMA for Diane Sawyer, some wondered whether Stephanopoulos – who hosts This Week, ABC’s Sunday morning public affairs program, and served as communications director for President Clinton – was too serious for the morning show. His wife knew better. “He’s really not that serious,” insists Wentworth, whose online chat show Daily Shot recently featured the family guinea pigs in a fashion show judged by Paulina Porizkova and Tim Gunn. “This guy who can tell you about nuclear proliferation … you tell a fart joke, and he falls off his chair. He loves to laugh, to have fun, right?” she says, turning to George. “Yes,” he says, smiling. “Otherwise,” she deadpans, “I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
The couple met on a blind date in 2001 and were smitten from the start. George recalls feeling “a kind of quiet, happy shock. I couldn’t believe we found each other.” Seven months later they had “a big fat WASP – Greek wedding,” Wentworth recalls. Despite his oxfords-and-dockers persona and her TMI humor, “at the core, we’re very similar,” she says. After nearly 12 years of marriage, “They’re still hot for each other,” says interior designer Michael Smith, a close friend.
In many ways they’re charmingly old-fashioned. Before dinner George loves giving thanks while all the Stephanopouli hold hands. But in Wentworth’s house, wisecracks are also a tradition. During grace, “our eldest is looking at me and rolling her eyes,” she quips. “Probably because I told her she can’t watch TV. The 8-year-old can’t ever wait because she’s so hungry, and the two dogs are under George’s chair, waiting for him to throw scraps.” Her husband feigns shock. “Well, it’s a nice moment for me,” he protests. “Yes,” she teases, “it’s your moment.”